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How an Affordable HD Wireless Camera System Was Engineered to Work Reliably in Space

An international crew of three to six live and work aboard the International Space Station and have conducted some 200 spacewalks since 1998. What if we showed you how Jacobs developed an external high-definition camera system that is portable, reliable, durable and affordable to capture video for NASA during spacewalks?

View from ISS

Traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, crewmembers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) sometimes need help seeing and identifying a wide assortment of status issues outside the station. Like a backup camera on a car, high-definition (HD) camera systems can function as the eyes of the astronauts, allowing many vantage points, angles and views in real-time. However, the space environment outside the ISS is extreme, and exposure without proper protection poses negative performance effects for technology. 

But what if we showed you how Jacobs developed a portable, HD camera system that can withstand the thermal environment and be repositioned easily to help the crewmembers see and identify issues?

Key Facts

10

hours of continuous, rechargeable battery life for the camera, excellent for use on long duration space walks

205+

spacewalks for space station construction, maintenance and repair have been completed by International Space Station astronauts and cosmonauts since December 1998

Our Jacobs video engineering team at the Johnson Space Center successfully led the effort to provide a practical camera solution for use on the International Space Station. The system may prove to become a standard for other vehicle systems that can be used on NASA’s new Lunar Gateway orbiting station and by astronauts walking on the surface of the moon.

Kwaku Nornoo
Jacobs Chief Engineer, Johnson Space Center

Designing a durable, low-cost solution

Astronaut selfie
DEWCC
ISS diagram
Astronaut outside ISS

Jacobs took the initiative to design and develop the first portable wireless camera system for the ISS. We designed and built the system using commercially available components that are both rugged and low cost. 

The Portable Wireless Camera (PWC) system will be used to capture HD video of target locations outside the space station and is designed to work inside a housing that protects the camera sensor from getting too hot or too cold. Signal connections from the camera to wireless modules outside the station use standard Wi-Fi and allow the camera to be moved and remounted easily. This adaptable system can provide different vantage points for astronauts and Mission Control while also saving the crew from repositioning expensive camera and control cables.

The camera streams 720p HD video and is compatible with existing Wi-Fi systems on the station, which allows streaming video to be sent live to Mission Control in Houston. For power, the camera uses a rechargeable battery with up to 10 hours of operation and can be used for long-duration space walks.  

Capturing the future

The PWC was launched in April aboard SpX-17 and is undergoing testing and deployment on the ISS. In the future, it’s possible that the camera system will be used to capture stunning video imagery on the surface of the Moon or even Mars.

Interested in learning more about how Jacobs transforms intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world? Visit www.jacobs.com/what-if.